I made an art out of putting things in my own way.

For most of my life I have had a deep curiousity, a need to know how to do things. This has been one of my greatest gifts and also my greatest curse.

As a child, I would watch what people did, copy it and then I’d be doing it myself pretty quickly; this was my curiousity at it’s best, it is how we all learn to walk, to talk. It was how I learned to read and write, to play football; to do so many things that I take for granted now but, as I grew older I started to think about the how much more and I turned it into something else entirely.

When I was learning to throw the javelin at school, at first I took to it quite naturally and was able to throw it a fair distance, it would arc beautifully and land in the grass. It felt good! Then, once I realised what I was doing I started to think about the process and I lost it completely. Every throw would either skim across the grass or would spin around and go nowhere; I was no longer able to throw it well and every time I tried I seemed to get worse. I kept trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and just when I thought I had it, again the throw would be rubbish. I never threw it in that arc again.

My dad, in his retirement, took up air rifle shooting. We set up a target at the bottom of the garden and he also joined a club that I used to take him to. One evening at the club one of dad’s friends, Alvin, said I should try firing his rifle, with real bullets, it was a 2.2. I had seen him do it many times and he told me what to do; so I sat down, leaned on the table in front with my left elbow, closed my left eye so I could look through the sight at the target, I took a breath in and exhaled a bit and then paused and squeezed the trigger; BANG! I got close to the bullseye. “Beginners Luck” Alvin shouted. So, I took another breath and did it again BANG! Another hit close to the bullseye. Each time I was focused on the target and squeezing the trigger, nothing else. I took a total of 10 shots and, apart from one, each bullet went within millimetres of the bullseye. I was very happy with what I had done. It felt good.

Then, I went another time and Alvin said the fateful words “I bet you can’t do that again!” and this time, I sat down and tried to remember how to do it. How was I sitting? How deep was my breath in? How tightly did I squeeze the trigger? How fast did I pull? How, how, how, how!!! I had so many thoughts going through my head and when I squeezed the trigger this time I was way off. I did it again and again, each time changing what I was doing a bit, trying to tweak it to recreate the moments from my first go, but I couldn’t. Every shot was a miss.

Now, whilst there may have been an element of luck in my first attempt, what I know made the biggest difference was where I put my attention. At first I had no expectations and so just focused on where the bullet was going and the simple movements I needed to make, but the second time I had to try to match what I had already done and so my attention was split between so many things. If I did that again now I would take more time until I felt my attention is where it needs to be, but back then, I got caught up in the how to.

This really came into my awareness a few weeks ago when a friend asked me to drive his replacement car so that he could pick up his own from a garage. I got in the car and realised that it was an automatic. I had only ever driven a manual and this looked very strange; there was no clutch pedal and there were only a few gears: Park, Reverse, Drive, 1 and 2. Also, the gear stick only went forward and backwards. It looked weird and I was uncertain.

When I started the engine, my left foot immediately went to the floor as if it was pressing the clutch, but there was nothing there. I couldn’t move the gear stick and didn’t know why, I started to panic, thinking that I should know how to do this; it can’t be that hard right? I began to feel silly and imagined my friend laughing at me. I imagined stalling the car and not being able to drive it. I called my friend to tell him that I had never driven an automatic and that he needs to give me a minute while I get used to the controls. 

Then, I put my foot on the brake and was able to move the gear stick into reverse; excellent, I am doing it!!!! As I lifted my foot off the brake the car still wouldn’t move; what is happening??? Why won’t it go? I started to panic again, thinking that I was so stupid for not being able to do this, it can’t be this hard surely??

Eventually, I lifted my foot off completely and the car started moving backwards with a jolt! The brake was much sharper than mine and so only needed a gentle touch. The car started to reverse and I got into position, ready to go.

Then, I put it into drive and car started to move and I was touching the brakes hard and it kept juddering. It must have looked like I was a learner driver and I was very self conscious. The car moved along the road and every time I had to brake it broke hard and car stopped dead; stop, start, stop, start… and then, after a couple of minutes I got it, I drove that car smoothly and all was well. It still felt so weird that my left foot did nothing and there was no need to change gears. I just used the accelerator and the brake, that was it. If felt like I was driving in a video game. Throughout, my foot kept trying to press the clutch, my left hand went to change gears; my instinct was to do more than I needed to do and it kept happening.

When we hit traffic it was a real pleasure, no more messing about with changing gears, I just touched the pedals a bit; it was sooo simple.

It was at this moment that it struck me: Life is not like driving a manual car, it is like driving an automatic. Life is very simple and if you want to do anything, there is always just one thing to do; just sit in the drivers seat, take your foot off the brake and go! That is it.

When I am coaching someone on living their dreams it can seem so daunting. They want to do this amazing thing and to do it they have to do all these other things first; they need to learn x and they need to do y and sometimes that may be true, but no matter how big the dream, no matter how far away it may seem right now, and how much work may be involved, there is always something very small and simple that they can do today that will have them heading in that direction.

What do you dream of doing and what is one small thing you can do today to be headed towards it?

If you don’t know, message me with your dream and I will help you find your first step. It is time you started living your life like you are driving an automatic!